Friday, May 26, 2006

Changing Times in a Google Economy

A couple of days ago I went to a class offered through work...well not so much a class but a motivational talk looking at our future. Every once in a while some article looks at the fate of libraries in these googling times, and some intrepid researcher compares the answers got from googling to those got from a librarian. Librarians usually come out looking pretty good, but an impression still remains with Joe Q Public that the future will hold no books nor will there be a place for libraries. As one who works at possibly the busiest branch library of its size in the country, I and my co-workers have to snicker. We know libraries continue to get more popular with the increasing access people have to the web and the internet. We also know that librarians use google...they won't be replaced by google.

So I went to this class wondering, what could be so great about this presentation that this guy was brought here all the way from the other side of the continent? Plus the photo he chose for his biographical page makes him look somewhat like Carrot Top. (I'm a little nervous saying this because he revealed himself to be the blogging geek he is, and he'll know I'm writing about him.)

In a nutshell, his message to libraries is that we need to make our presence known on the web. To do that, we need to break down the walls separating our card catalogs from the web, and we need to use google marketing tricks to get pages from our websites to come out on top. To do that, we also need to understand how the web works for people, recognize it as a social space over and above an information space.

Thus we must think of how the google economy works. People don't go where there are barriers, example Encyclopedia Britannica versus Wikipedia. If we have to pay to get in, or if contents are hidden behind a login wall, we won't go there. People do go to top-ranked searches, so we also need to understand how to increase our rank, and that is directly connected to the social economy of the web. Rank is determined by how many times a page gets linked to, and that happens because people are talking about you. (When I got home, my equally geeky husband pointed out that it's not that simple. If you get linked to from a big site, that does a lot for your rank. It's all in who knows you.)

It was clear to me that Casey Bisson's message comes from a culture of blogging. At one point he asked, "Who here has a blog?" He seemed quite sure that a beginning blogger who "hadn't done much" would certainly do more, get hooked in. I dunno, real life keeps getting in the way of my time here. But, I could see a glimpse of the blog-addled vision. This social space is as much a part of our future as churches (or church gossips) used to be. He remarked that if he's working on something, he puts it on his blog. Then he knows where to find it. A good tip for this blogger wannabe.

I certainly came away with realizing there were many ways I could make my projects more noticeable. I've been busy working on Portland's Buddhist Festival in the Park. I need to encourage the Buddhist groups involved to link to it. While I had the vague notion that part of blogging culture is to make comments on each others' blogs, tit for tat linkage...I shy away from the Machiavellian nature of that kind of sociability, and I just don't have time to read a lot of blogs or make a whole lot of comments. But what I can do is make sure when something is important enough, that I get those connections made.

What we have here is a new landscape. First there was the physical landscape. Then there was an internal landscape. We developed a sense of being, and carried knowledge from past to future. Then there came a landscape of knowledge that was preserved, oral history and written history. Now we have this landscape, and people are rapidly exploring the different ways we can navigate it. If we want to find the best shores for our cities, we have to be quick to stake our claims.

The two hours ended far too quickly. I didn't get to ask him what he thought of the current threat to net neutrality.

1 comment:

Casey said...

(Somehow this post just appeared in Technorati.) I get a chuckle at being compared to Carrot Top, no worries.

Events like that day in Portland don't offer as much opportunity for discussion as I'd like, so I was especially excited to find this. And, honestly, it's a great comfort to know that some of what I said made sense.

Thank you,

Casey